Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life Signs

I retired a year ago, after my husband went into a medical crisis. Jerry spent time in intensive care at Crittenton Hospital, where the nurses were wonderful and probably saved his life. Diabetes, heart and artery disease, small strokes, sepsis and sudden kidney failure had all taken a toll on him and working full time with a disabled daughter and dangerously ill husband was taking a toll on me.
The first week of official retirement, my ten year old grandson came to spend winter break with his mom, grandpa and me.
Dustin played happily all week while my husband recovered in his recliner and our daughter rested or slept on our couch because her furnace was out again and she sleeps most of the time.
Suddenly boy's chin clunked to his chest as he replicated a skateboard jump with twist off a 12 inch high jogging trampoline.
"I'm okay," Dustin said, but his face turned white as a hard boiled egg. Chills shook his body. He couldn't turn his head or lift his chin.
I put him to bed but became alarmed a few hours later when he said he couldn't raise or turn his head.
His dad took him to Beaumont Hospital, where X-rays showed two dislocated vertebrae, C2 and C3. The doctor said, "Any sudden movement could sever his spinal cord."
His dad feared losing his job if he missed work that night, so I arrived in time to ride the ambulance that transported Dustin from Troy to Royal Oak, where he was admitted to intensive care.
The ambulance driver said sometimes little boys have conditions that look very serious, but they recover very quickly. It reassured me, but then I went numb with panic when we were met at the Emergency Room by a team of pediatricians and specialists, plus a Chaplin who offered me "grief counseling."
Dustin looked small in a blue cervical collar big enough to be a flotation device. He hardly spoke, except to ask for help drinking or sitting, and how soon before he could skateboard again and when his parents could come. The hospital said the insurance would only pay for 48 hours care, so Dustin was being sent home when he should have stayed in the hospital.
He slept most of the ten days until the collar came off, until the danger of paralysis passed.
He recovered.
Not me.
Thumps, cries, screams, any threat to his head or neck made me panic.
Cries and screams were usually reactions to the Lions game on t.v., a missing remote control device, or Dustin's $19,000 bill from the hospital which, due to disputes between medical and homeowner's insurance, hospital billing and two divorced parents, I feared having to pay,
Today when Dustin screamed, everyone ran. We found him bent over the bathroom sink, crying, "A scar! On my chin! I can't go to school!"
"It's a scratch," I said.
He put his face up to the mirror. "It looks like a tattoo! I zipped my skin when I zipped my hoodie. Cool!"
Trying to prevent another crisis created contagious panic.
 I'll try to remember thumps, cries and screams are signs of life.
And remember to embrace life instead of bracing myself against the bumps and detours on its rocky, awesome road

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